Ocean Rowing Updates: Olly Rows On, Sarah Back on Dry Land

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A couple of quick updates today on the two major ongoing ocean rows that I’ve reported on recently.

First, the big news is about Sarah Outen, who is hoping to become the first woman to row solo across the Indian Ocean. She set off a week or so back from Fremantle, Australia with her sights firmly set on reaching Mauritius, and doing so in record time. She also hoped to become the youngest person to ever achieve the crossing as well.

According to her blog however, that quest will be delayed a bit. It seems that the electrical systems on Sarah’s boat went out and she was forced to call for a tow back to land. But fear not, while the boat is being examined, Sarah says she’ll restock her supplies, rest up, and prepare to head back out onto the water as soon as she can. She’s not quite done yet.

Meanwhile, her fellow countryman, British adventurer Olly Hicks, continues his attempt to circumnavigate Antartica by row boat as part of the Virgin Global Row challenge. After a slow start, that included a week of basically standing still, Olly seems to really be in the groove now, and making solid progress as he rows south and east, to drop below New Zealand before heading out across the South Pacific.

Olly continues to update his daily blog as well, with insights into his day to day life aboard the Flying Carrot. In a recent post he laments the build up of barnacles on his beloved boat, saying they only serve to remind him of how slow he is moving, saying that at times he feels like “little better than drift wood with lights and music!” He’s also endured some foggy days of late, which hasn’t brightened his mood much, but he seems focused and intent on just taking things one day at a time, happy to be making positive miles.

If everything continues to go as planned, Olly should reach South Georgia around June, where he’ll take a break from the water, wait out the winter, and then continue on his way. All told, the expedition is expected to take 18 months to complete.

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5 thoughts on “Ocean Rowing Updates: Olly Rows On, Sarah Back on Dry Land”

  1. Hi AJ – I find both of these outings interesting, particularly as they both started from Australia, where I live. After asking a pointy question or two on Sarah’s website blog about her plans in the event she needed a rescue, some readers expressed a view that those negative topics were taboo there. Likewise, Olly has been very reluctant to answer many questions put to him by followers. Hopefully “The Adventure Blog” is happy to have chats about real issues, not just lots of posts wishing them calm seas and good luck.

    A couple of points. Sarah’s return to shore after ten days was not due to her being way out at sea and then phoning up to be retrieved. Her course consisted of a large circle whereby she was blown, courtesy of the prevailing weather pattern, right back to just off her original start point!

    From there she requested to be towed the final kilometres back to port, apparently because there were problems with the electrics. I am not sure if she was about to make unwanted hard contact with the shore if she had not cancelled the trip. Anyway, she is about to restart from the same port (Fremantle), but I suspect she will again have problems with unfavourable wind direction before too long. She may be leaving Australia from too low a latitude, and the prevailing westerly patterns wont help her drift (OK, row) her way to Africa.

    Re “Hickles”: Olly, compared to Sarah is drifting (OK, rowing) his trip with the prevailing weather patterns behind him. However, as he approaches NZ, it is by no means certain that he can clear the bottom of Stewart Island. The next weeks will be intersting, to say the least.

    If he does get past the Island and manages to head in his preferred direction, there is no way he can possibly make the next landfall, South America (let alone South Gorgia Island) within the June 2009 time frame he hopes for. Even if he travelled at twice the rate he has been making so far, it just can’t happen anywhere near mid year.

    Will he risk staying out over winter, or will he get a tow in at NZ? Anyway, the next few weeks will see if he can avoid hitting NZ in the first place.

  2. Hi Yikes!

    Thanks for the posts and the comments. Good discussion is always appreciated around here, and I think you make some very good points.

    In regards to Sarah, I was already worried about her row when she was struggling in the first day or two, and getting sick at sea before she ever hit the real open waters. She was also lucky that she was fairly close to shore when she got towed back in, because who knows what would have happened were her electricals to fail while she was half way through the journey.

    As for Olly, watching him on the tracking system, I was wondering if he was going to clear NZ as well, and I agree he’s going incredibly slow if he hopes to keep his schedule. Of course, he was suppose to set off from NZ to begin with, and his schedule hasn’t been adjusted to deal with that.

    Of course, the real question is, who will rescue either one of these two if they get into trouble. If they’re out in the middle of international waters, and something happens, someone will have go and retrieve them, and tax payer expense no doubt. That’s the reason why NZ didn’t want Olly setting off from their shores.

    Hopefully it doesn’t come to that, but it is a prospect for sure.

  3. AJ said: “Of course, the real question is, who will rescue either one of these two if they get into trouble.”

    Without giving a definite answer, Sarah pretty much gave me the impression that she will be relying on a friendly nation to try and rescue her if it all goes wrong.
    This section of her Blog covers my questions and her answers re the above. http://www.sarahouten.co.uk/blog/touching-base/

    Olly answered one readers question by saying that he had backup plans and self insurance plans on standby. Maybe he means his main sponsor, Virgin, could afford to send out a longe range rescue helicopter at their own expense if needed.

    If rescue insurance is not available anywhere, possibly via one of the rowers’ associations (?) then my suggestion to Sarah was to find a wealthy sponsor who would become the main sponsor in return for legally promising that they would foot the bill if a government organised rescue was initiated by her. In such a case, that sponsor gets main billing, yet doesn’t pay a dollar out for the privilege, UNLESS she flicks that EPIRB switch.

    PS – Sarah has just said on her site she will be at her destination 6,000 klms away, in 100 days from now…… It will take Hickles 100 days to do the 1500 klms to NZ.

  4. After 80 days of sometimes hellish conditions and now currents/winds taking him closer to the NZ coast, Olly has announced it is over.

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